FarmWeb News 24/03/2012

More investment in rural areas has been announced by DEFRA with the launch of five “Rural Growth Networks” in England. The Networks cover Wiltshire, Northumberland, Durham, Devon, Somerset, Cumbria and Warwickshire. The £15m, three year project is forecast to create 700 new businesses and 3,000 jobs.

The Welsh Government has finally decided not to go ahead with the proposed cull of badgers after many months of deliberation.  The intention now is to develop a badger TB vaccination programme.  The decision has been condemned by veterinary and farming leaders as being based on politics and not science. England is still on course for a cull in pilot areas and Northern Ireland is considering similar action.

Over 50% of the UK milk is produced in 10 counties with Devon, Dyfed and Cumbria accounting for 20% between them.  Production is becoming increasingly concentrated in these counties where rainfall continues to be adequate despite drought conditions elsewhere.

The HSE intends to go ahead with its scheme to recover its costs from farmers who breach health and safety rules.  The Fee For Intervention scheme has been delayed by technical difficulties but is expected to be launched in October 2012.

In the past, most centralised grain drying and storage facilities have been farmer owned co-operatives taking the grain through to marketing and sale.  A new large scale venture in Wiltshire offers drying and storage only, leaving farmers to market the grain themselves.  Close consideration of insurance requirements is clearly needed.

The collapse of over 5,000 farm buildings under weight of snow, in the 2010-11 winter has caused concern in the construction industry.  Farm buildings are generally designed for a 20 year life with little control over the quality of materials and construction.  Changes are set to be introduced in industry standards and quality should rise with the advent of the new EU “CE” mark, in 2014, confirming a building is fit for purpose.

The Government has called for the horticulture sector to increase production of plants and flowers to reduce the level of imports.  Over 75% of retail flowers are imported from as far away as South Africa and South America.

Farmers’ leaders are concerned that agriculture will not get its fair share of scarce water resources in those areas worst affected by the drought.  Crop irrigation accounts for only 1% of water usage but there are fears that farmers will be asked to reduce this.